31 October 2017, London, U.K – The Burma Human Rights Network calls for the release of photographer and journalist Aung Naing Soe, foreign journalists Lau Hon Meng and Mok Choy Lin and their driver Hla Tin, who were arrested on October 27th on charges connected to the illegal importing or exporting of restricted or banned goods without a license after their crew flew a drone over the Burmese Parliament. While Aung Naing Soe was in custody police confiscated electronics from his house, including his laptop, for reasons that seem unlikely to be related to his case. While the possession and use of the drone may have been in violation of the law, Aung Naing Soe was working as a translator, and his role, as well as the role of Hla Tin’s, seems minimal at most. Even with the use of the drone in violation of the law, he and the others face a potential three years in prison for a minor crime that should result in little more than a fine. Aung Naing Soe has previously drawn negative attention in Burma due to his religious background and willingness to fairly cover discrimination and undemocratic events inside the country.
“The Judiciary system in Burma is as corrupt and biased as its political system. Since the election of the NLD government, freedom of speech and media freedom have been significantly compromised. Burmese military propaganda has effectively changed people’s mindsets by portraying journalists and media as a threat and consequently many of Burma’s democratic reforms are paralysed, ” said Kyaw Win, executive director of Burma Human Rights Network.